Southern Center for Human Rights implementing three phases to make communities safer due to police misconduct, phase one complete. Photo by Isaiah Singleton/The Atlanta Voice

Sandra Bland. Rayshard Brooks. Michael Brown. Tory Brown. Philando Castile. Nygil Cullins. Manuel Ellis. Eric Garner. Ju’Zema Goldring. Andre Hill. George Floyd. Oscar Cain Jr. Daniel Prude. Tamir Rice. Breonna Taylor. James Wilburn. Daunte Wright. And countless others have either been killed by police misconduct or wrongfully arrested in protest over the last few years. 

The Southern Center for Human Rights hosted a community safety and police violence town hall meeting at the Community Church of God Wednesday in Zone 4. Zone 4 includes the following neighborhoods in southwest Atlanta: Adamsville, Ben Hill, Campcreek Market Place, Cascade, Greenbriar, Oakland City, Princeton Lakes, Venetian Hills, and the historic West End.

The intention of the various town hall meetings for each zone in Atlanta is to make community-based recommendations to Atlanta about policing, violence, and community safety.  

The Southern Center for Human Rights hosted a community safety and police violence town hall meeting at the Community Church of God Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023. Photo by Isaiah Singleton/The Atlanta Voice

According to data collected by The Washington Post, police shot and killed at least 1,055 people nationwide last year, which is the most since the newspaper began tracking fatal shootings by officers in 2015. That is more than the 1,021 shootings in 2020 and the 999 in 2019.  

Black people, who account for 13% of the U.S. population, accounted for 27% of those fatally shot and killed by police in 2021, according to Mapping Police Violence, a nonprofit group that tracks police shootings. This means Black people are twice as likely as white people to be shot and killed by police officers.  

The Southern Center for Human Rights says it has been conducting research for months to have the most information possible to give policy recommendations to City of Atlanta and Atlanta Police Department leadership.  

Black Atlanta residents make up 86% of arrests by the Atlanta Police Department, according to the APD Police Scorecard. 81% of people killed by APD are Black. According to the APD Use of Force Dashboard, the groups most vulnerable to police use of force are Black, male, and between the ages of 26-35.  

Devin Franklin, a part of the southern center for human rights movement policy counsel, said it’s important for citizens to have access to accurate data, however, data though reliable, it only tells a part of the story. 

“Data doesn’t give us who’s, what’s, when’s, or why’s. So, events like this that allow us to discuss noteworthy and news headlines in Atlanta are critical to understanding why the numbers are where they are,” Franklin said. “Why are Black people policed differently in Atlanta? Why are poor people policed differently in Atlanta? None of us should operate on vibes or simply just trust the police because they are the police. We should distrust them because they are the police, but we should base our opinions and determinations on things that are rooted in fact and have been tested.” 

Franklin also said it’s important to come to these events to “provide context so you can intelligently discuss criminal and legal reform in the city and to assess news when you hear it and to be able to identify potential misinformation or propaganda.” 

The Southern Center for Human Rights’ goal is to have three phases to make communities safer. The first phase, now completed, was a discussion with individual zones in the city.  

“Atlanta has six police zones, and we went to each one and hosted an event in each one to share data, narratives, and combine it into one and allow the community to know this is where we stand and this is what we say, but to also get feedback,” he said. 

Phase two, according to Franklin, is centered on feedback and the conversation around what policies can be implemented to make communities safer. Phase two is accessing policies and having conversations between the six zones.  

“I think, with this conversation through town hall meetings is the number of reforms we’ve seen the city of Atlanta adopt before, have not been effectively dealing with police violence to our citizens and that we need to reimagine what that is,” he said. “When we talk to people, we ask what does community safety look like and no one has ever said more policing, it never comes up when you think about what safety looks like because you don’t imagine the potential of danger that a police officer represents whether intentional or unintentionally.” 

Phase two, said Franklin, is an opportunity to access different policies that lessen the footprint of police and the way they go about business such as a point system or bad advising that deprioritize the arrest of individuals that can disrupt lives or make people even poorer than they are, but also arrests that don’t make other people safer.  

“No, I’m not safer because you arrested John for driving on a suspended license. It doesn’t affect me in the least so why are we incentivizing that encounter, which also is more like a result and conflict between officers and citizens,” he said. 

Phase three will be a symposium in the spring with a presentation where the non-profit will invite elected officials and community organizations to come and hear community members to discuss recommendations that have been tested among each other to make people safer. 

“We presented some things but just because we say so doesn’t mean it needs to be so, just like if police say so, doesn’t mean it needs to be so. So, having policies vetted through the community and citizens and have those persons speak to reforms to make the city a safer place,” he said. 

Additionally, the Southern Center for Human Rights listed eight reforms that could reduce police violence by 15%. Six of the eight have been adopted by the APD, yet police violence in Atlanta is on the rise. 

 The list of eight reforms include: 

  1. Banning chokeholds and strangleholds (adopted) 
  2. Require de-escalation (adopted) 
  3. Require warning before shooting 
  4. Exhaust all other means before shooting (adopted) 
  5. Duty to intervene (adopted) 
  6. Ban shooting at moving vehicles 
  7. Require a use-of-force continuum (adopted) 
  8. Require comprehensive reporting (adopted) 

 Furthermore, the center included seven recommendations to police responses that would reduce unnecessary police encounters: 

  1. Require comprehensive, complete, and accurate data reporting, which can be audited by a third party. 
  2. Remove most criminal penalties from the municipal code and make greater use of non-law enforcement responses to harm. 
  3. Require APD to deprioritize drug and quality of life offenses, such as jaywalking, simple possession of marijuana, etc. 
  4. Fund-wrap-around services for individuals facing criminal prosecution, such as mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment. 
  5. Decriminalize the traffic code like most US states. 
  6. Ban all quotas and point systems that incentivize arrests. 
  7. Re-direct a portion of APD funding to promote usage of and support for policing alternatives offered by Policing Alternatives and Diversion Initiatives (PAD).  

For more information, visit For data on the APD, visit